The Examination: Stick Out Your Tongue
Stick out your tongue; say ah-h-h-h-h.
How many times since childhood have we heard these instructions? “Stick out your tongue—say ah-h-h-h-h.”
In the Mains family household, one child took those words as a personal challenge. “If anyone puts a stick down my throat, I’ll vomit.” He invariably warned me each time we headed toward a pediatrician’s office.
“But Joe,” I would explain (again). “The doctor has to check your throat. You’ve been running a temp and complaining about pain when you swallow.”
Soon we’d find ourselves in a little cubicle in the doctor’s office. Joel would scoot defiantly onto the examining table, his legs swinging rhythmically, his gym shoes thumping against the side. We would wait in the medicinal atmosphere, making mother/son chitchat until the nurse entered, crisp in white, smiling a most charming smile, one that had calmed and disarmed hundreds of apprehensive children. “What seems to be the matter here?”
When we reported an elevated temperature and trouble with swallowing, she would turn to the jar on the counter that held tongue depressors, those slightly overgrown popsicle sticks.
“I throw up if you put those things down my mouth,” Joel would invariably warn.
“No,” the nurse would reply smoothly, professionally, confidently. “It will only take a moment. Now stick out your tongue. Say ah-h-h-h-h.”
With a look of resignation, Joel would stick out his tongue, obediently say, “ah-h-h-h-h”; in would go the compressor; I would close my eyes. Sure enough, gagging and retching.
“He seems to have an oversensitive vomit reactor,” I would explain, torn between vaulting parental peevishness and intense loyalty. And as we quickly cleaned up the mess I would ask, “Did you get a look down his throat?”
For a while I regarded Joel’s behavior as a major embarrassment. I had failed somewhere as a mother. Wrongly or rightly, stoicism was the family rule when visiting pediatricians. “Mains kids don’t cry,” I would insist in my most practiced positive tone, and sure enough, they marched through doctors’ offices and family clinics and emergency rooms with the stiff upper lips of Trojan warriors. One of the children endured twelve stitches for a cut above the eye without so much as a whimper. Mains kids—they were all terrific, proud of their own rigor as they bragged ritualistically at evening meals after medical appointments. Mains kids don’t cry—except Joel.
He not only cried; he also kicked and screamed and hollered. I endured vast waves of emotional trauma while watching my child, a Mains kid, being forcibly restrained for injections; furthermore, none of my parental wiles worked—not promises of a stop at Peterson’s Ice Cream Parlor if he controlled himself, or overt, bald-faced sibling comparisons such “as your older brother and sister have never acted this way” and “even the baby doesn’t cry the way you cry.”
Joel just didn’t care; and in this matter, his will was stronger than all the five of the rest of us combined. Appealing to his pride was worthless. He punched the self-esteem eject button whenever he entered a pediatrician’s waiting room. And time after time, I knew the moment I heard the nurse tell him to stick out his tongue and say ah-h-h-h-h, I was going to be mortified.
I have a feeling that there are a lot of people who are just like Joel was (it is a relief to report that we have turned a behavioral corner). They have an instant, negative reaction whenever anyone says, “Stick out your tongue. Say ah-h-h-h-h.”
Just as it was important for a medical professional to examine Joel’s tongue for abnormalities that were symptomatic of disease, so your tongue, my tongue, everybody’s tongue is an absolute indicator of what kind of disorder may be lodged in our souls and needs to undergo rigorous self-examination.
The truth is: We are literally what we say, even when we think we have fooled people by our carefully chosen words. In the end our tongues always betray symptoms of soul sickness. Proverbs says, “For the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword” (5:3–4).
“A worthless man plots evil and his speech is like a scorching fire” (16:27).
“Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools” (26:7).
“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (29:20).
When I was a young bride, someone said, “The way a woman talks about her husband in front of other people is an indicator of how she really feels about him.”
This caused me to think. How did I talk about David in front of other people? It was one of my first stick-out-your-tongue examinations.
Let me see now. Ah-h-h-h-h! Well, I had to admit there was a little fuzz. Sometimes I put my husband down in groups, telling funny stories about him, beginning to practice the art of the verbal slam. Often I complained about him in a group of young wives. David left his stockings on the bedroom floor; he worked late too often; and on and on.
Fortunately the symptoms of marital disrespect were in early stages, and I think I diagnosed them just in time. Consequently, the treatment was simple. I began to refrain from saying things about my husband that would be demeaning to him, and I began to pray that God would give me true love for David in my heart.
It was during these years I began to learn, however, that the tongue, even when it is lying, even when it doesn’t mean what it says, is devastating in what it reveals. If we will learn to listen to what we say, we will have clear indicators as to what needs to be done on this journey to spiritual maturity.
The tongue is the thermometer that shows the temperature of the inner person.
The tongue is not only the thermometer; it is often the thermostat by which we set the temperature in the inner person.
Now how about us: Time for a mouth examination—let’s stick out our tongues. No protesting! I just want to see what kinds of words we normally use about the people we say we love the most. Let’s say ah-h-h-h-h. Good. Uh-oh, I think there’s a problem.
The tongue is coated with disaffirmation toward spouses and children; it is debilitating marriages and families. We have a nag bacteria, an extremely contagious condition. Proverbs says it is better to live in an attic than in a palace with a contentious woman. Some of us need to take a dose of Ephesians 5:28: “Even so, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
Let’s stick out our tongues; let’s say ah-h-h-h-h. We must become utterly convinced that the tongue is the indicator of the spiritual and emotional health of the person. What we talk about all the time is what we love. The words we use and the words we don’t use define what we are thinking, feeling and becoming. If we are married and we never use the pronoun we, we may need to examine how we are actually functioning within marital life. If there is one person about whom we say only hateful things, we need to look within ourselves. Perhaps I really hate a part of myself and am projecting that on the other person. If we never speak of spiritual things, doesn’t this indicate a lack of spiritual thinking?
The tongue is the thermometer that shows the temperature of the inner person.
It is not only the thermometer; it is often the thermostat by which we set the temperature of our inner person. Stick out your tongue; say ah-h-h-h-h.
One Eight-Hour Guided Advent Retreat of Silence at Turtle Creek Acres in McHenry, Illinois
Fireside Christmas Tree at Turtle Creek Acres
Mains Timberlake, a trained and certified life coach has opened her
lovely barn-house, Turtle Creek Acres, for a small one-day guided
retreat for people who need time to renew, but can’t get away for
several days or even for 24 hours. “So many of the people I coach feel
as though they are being overwhelmed by the circumstances they are
facing in their lives.” Melissa pulled this quote from her journal: “At
times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another
person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who
have lighted the flame within us. –A. Schweitzer”
Mains and Melissa Timberlake will be facilitators for this retreat of
silence and would be delighted to encircle you in place of calm, of
quiet, of beauty and of peace. We want to examine how we can learn to
draw light from the One whom Scripture tells us is the Light of the
World. How can we learn to renew ourselves in His flame?
is room for 40 people on Wednesday and on the alternate Saturday
retreat day. Stay-over plans are in the works for the few who might
like to have a quiet night and early breakfast in a nearby inn and in
order to continue the renewal conversation at Turtle Creek the next
The cost is $150 per day per retreatant. If you are interested in a day schedule and more details, email email@example.com.
We will send you a registration form and hope to see you in the yellow
barn home, backlit by the roaring fire, the rooms all decorated for
Christmas with endless nooks and crannies and lofts for private prayer
and journaling. We’ll eat lunch together in silence and find the
never-ending hot chocolate bar. We’ll walk in the woods and along paths
in the marsh in order to sort out thoughts; we’ll listen to the cry of
the sand hill cranes, leave for home after the bonfire beside the front
paddock, but not before we have sundowners (hot cider or hot rum
toddies). Our meditation will be on the prologue from John 1, verses
1-14, which we will encourage you to memorize before you come.
Old Sleds Outside Stable
Karen is blogging three times a week in the new year and also posting regularly on her Facebook page. Blog address is http://blog.karenmains.com. Next week's blogs will be posted shortly.
The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
"Let’s stick out our tongues; let’s say ah-h-h-h-h. We must become utterly convinced that the tongue is the indicator of the spiritual and emotional health of the person. What we talk about all the time is what we love. The words we use and the words we don’t use define what we are thinking, feeling and becoming."
Pre-order Karen’s book on the tongue, soon to be republished as
Medicine for Mouth Disease: A Miracle Cure for the Troublesome Tongue.